We recently caught up with Simon Reeve to chat fish-based souvenirs, remarkable memories and donkey border crossings. Simon is an acclaimed author and travel presenter, and foreword writer on our book Journey.
Adopted by former head hunters.
My head torch, which has literally saved my life on several occasions. A very sharp multi-tool for chopping up the bread, repairing the cameras and whittling spoons. And a small box of tea bags for taking a bit of Blighty on the road.
I think donkey, across a border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was pretty weird, quite frankly!
There was a no-man’s land between the two countries, and there was this wizened old bloke with a donkey and cart who would transport peoples’ luggage back and forth. And that’s how we got our endless BBC bags from one to the other. That was very memorable.
I’m going to say Lucy, who was a Maasai grandmother living on the Great Plains of Africa, who I met while following the tea trail on a journey through East Africa. Lucy lived a very traditional life herding her cattle and wore traditional Maasai clothing, but her mind roamed a lot further, and she asked so many questions! I couldn’t get a word in edgewise!
She got me helping to repair her hut, which involved slapping cowpats on the side. And she laughed so much at my pathetic attempts that she had to sit down and have a cup of tea.
We went walking and talking across the plain where she lived, and then there was this phone ringing from somewhere, and we all looked at each other. Lucy looked quite embarrassed and sort of put her hand into her robes and pulled out this battered old Nokia, that she would get a child to walk for three hours to charge once a week. It was her neighbour calling from about a mile across the plain, who was squinting against the sunlight going, “What on earth are you doing? Who are those people with you?”
I was just travelling in Russia, filming for a TV series of the same name. We had a wonderful guide in Dagestan, who insistently pressed on us a whole armful of dried, preserved, very dead fish as we were heading to the airport to leave.
He also gave us about fifteen kilos worth of stone tablets, upon each of which was laminated a picture of his home village. It was quite the most incredible gift to give anyone who’s getting on a plane. I loved him, and he was a wonderful bloke, and we all found it utterly brilliant and hilarious that he’d given them to us.
So that, definitely. The fish and the stone tablet are the most memorable souvenirs
Well I do now, because I loved reading through Journey. I read and read and I found it utterly enthralling, marvellously put together. It really is very inspiring and beautiful book.
I particularly loved the story of the ancient Greek adventurer, Pytheas, who left a Greek settlement in Marseilles in what’s now the south of France, around 300 B.C. He went off on this epic journey to this strange foreign land that we now call Britain, where he met the mysterious Cornish people who worked the tin mines there. Then he travelled on and up to The Shetland Islands and even perhaps to Iceland. What an incredible adventure that must have been!